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Private John Cameron
31st Battalion, The Australian Imperial Force
John Cameron, Private 3192 of the 31st Battalion, was known in the family as Jock or Pop. He was well known in the family for his embroidery, leather, paper tolling and carpet making skills – all gained through his rehabilitation in London after he lost his leg in battle in France.
The family still has a few pieces of his handiwork, including a very large flag which depicts the Scottish Lion. The flag was totally sewn by hand and bears Jock’s name in his own handwriting. The family also has a tablecloth embroidered with Scottish thistle flowers, as well as Pop’s medals and various photos.
Private Cameron was treated at the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Southall.
Information courtesy of Mary Cameron (daughter aged 94), Rosalind Wyatt (granddaughter) and Janelle Pritchard (nee Cameron, granddaughter).
John Cameron was born in the north-east of Scotland in Aberdeen though he grew up near a little town called New Deer. He was popularly known as Jock, to his friends.
Before World War One, and as a young man, he enlisted in The Territorials - a home guard of Scots - with his future brother-in-law, Jimmy. Some wore the kilt, and others trousers, but all were in uniform. He and Jimmy also made a scouting trip to Australia to decide upon immigration and on the way their ship was wrecked in the Bay of Biscay; they were rescued by a passing ship. Together they stayed in Australia for a year or two before returning to Scotland. Then the war broke out.
He rarely discussed the war, so little is known of what it was like for him to be on the field of battle. He had a weak right eye, but excellent vision in his left. Because of this he was rejected at first by the Army as he used his rifle to shoot from the left shoulder, which was not acceptable; but he was an extraordinarily accurate shot, and upon realising this, Army enlisters overlooked their prejudice and sent him to France in the front lines - as a Sniper. But before being sent away, he was elected with a few others to demonstrate bayonet fighting for King George.
The war ended approximately two weeks after the following happened, and he was due to go on leave soon also, so he was unlucky: His leg was blown off below the knee by shrapnel. When this happened he had the presence of mind to take his helmet off and put it over the stump to stem the bleeding, before he passed out. He awoke later in a tent that had been erected in mud. Perhaps because it was near the end of World War I there was nothing to ease the pain or address the shock (not even a shot of whisky), so he endured. He was moved out, but the leg had developed gangrene which meant another part of the leg, still below the knee, had to be operated on and cut off. He had also been gassed at some point during the war which left him with an asthmatic cough for the rest of his life.
Whilst in London Hospital, injured men were taught needlework as therapy and according to his daughter, Mary Cameron (now 94-years of age), he embroidered a beautiful piece on silk with a kangaroo, emu and wattle in the foreground and what looked like the rays of the setting sun in the background, but when one looked closer, the rays were bayonets. After the war, he married his long-time sweetheart, Mary Robertson. He had proposed just before the war, but would not tie the knot until he returned home safely. Upon returning, he was impressed by the fact she still wanted him, but being a proud soldier, he would not get married until he could walk down the aisle. So, when he could walk with crutches, they married. They immigrated to Australia and they took the piece with them. It became a wall hanging, but unfortunately, it deteriorated with time and had to be discarded.
In Australia, they lived in Brisbane, Lismore and settled in Grafton where Jock continued his creative pursuits and made many pieces including rugs for the floor. One outstanding rug featured a tiger in a jungle. This was his main entertainment in the evenings whilst listening to the radio with which he was able to tune into countries overseas, even Japan and Germany during World War II.
Despite his wooden leg which was issued quite some time after he was in Australia (on the sea journey out he was still on crutches), he painted, wallpapered, rode a bicycle to and from work in the railway office where he was employed in an Accountant's position - even in lunch hours (which was quite a distance and across a long bridge over the Clarence River) - kept a large vegetable garden, poultry, laid a concrete drive, fixed everyone's shoes. According to his family he achieved more than many men who have two legs.
He was very jovial, had an even disposition, never pitied himself, and was very sociable.
John Cameron passed away in 1962 at 68 Villiers Street, Grafton, N.S.W., Australia. He went to bed one night next to his wife, and in the morning she could not awaken him. They had known each other all of their lives as they had grown up as childhood friends on neighbouring properties when he often visited his future wife's home in the town of New Deer because they had a large and very sociable family.
It was a merciful ending to the 70-year long life of a true Scottish soldier. He is buried in the old Grafton cemetery, N.S.W., next his wife, Mary Cameron, who passed away 10-years later.
The descendants of Jock include:
Daughter: Mary Charlotte Cameron (aged 94-years)
Son: Donald Ian Cameron (deceased at aged 72-years)
Son: Ronald William Cameron (still birth)
7 grandchildren (3 boys, 4 girls): Rosalind Wyatt (daughter of Mary Cameron). Don and Barbara Cameron had 6 children: Graeme / Janelle / Brett / Marina / Barbara and Ronald Cameron
21 great grandchildren (Ben / Mazzy / Nathan / Nicky / Christine / Lyndal / Rachael / Jade / Kristen / Ashleigh / Erin / Matthew / Alecia / Barbara / Jessica / Robin / Linda / Jole / Elliott / Madison / Donald
15 great great grandchildren (and more to come !)
In total he left 46 'fingerprints' in the world!Cameron, Private John - decorated letter
Cameron, Private John - in hospital
Cameron, Private John - leading the Anzac Day March
Cameron, Private John 1